Hungary's defiant premier Viktor Orbán has no hope of securing vital funding from the EU and the International Monetary Fund until the dispute is resolved, leaving him a stark choice of either bowing to EU demands or letting his country slide into bankruptcy.
Yields on Hungary's two-year debt jumped to 9.17pc on Tuesday, an unsustainable level for an economy in recession with public debt of near 80pc of GDP. Hungary's debt was cut to junk status by rating agencies last week.
Capital Economics said Hungary must repay €5.9bn (£4.9bn) in EU-IMF loans and raise external funds equal to 18pc of GDP this year, the highest in Eastern Europe. Two-thirds of household debt is in Swiss francs, leading to a lethal currency mismatch as capital flight weakens the forint.
"Hungary is playing with fire," said Lars Christensen from Danske Bank. "The EU is not bluffing. It will let Hungary go over the edge to make the point that EU countries must play by the rules. Our worry is that Hungary's government has not yet got the message."
The EU said it had sent three letters of "Formal Notice" over Hungary's assault on the independence of the judiciary, the central bank, and the data protection ombudsman – the first step in "infringement proceedings". The dispute could ultimately lead to loss of Hungary's voting rights under Article 7 of EU treaty law.
Read more: Hungary faces ruin as EU loses patience - Telegraph